** This article is the personal experience of a 2018 Honda Civic 1.8 S owner and does not necessarily reflect the views of Wapcar.
Facebook: Jia Cherng
The Honda Civic, a car that I always thought was gorgeous, even from the Civic EK, Civic EG series I thought it looked amazing! As I have been a grease monkey since the day I was born, the only ever toys I had were cars. My parents would just give me a 1:64 model GTR and that would be enough for me to last the day without crying or whining. Naturally, as an early automotive enthusiast, I did not mind any car that I could get my hands on when I first got my license, be it a Kancil, a 20-year-old Corolla or a mini-van, I would take anything that’s on wheels. Fortunately, I inherited my parents’ first-generation Toyota Vios NCP42 and it was one of the best cars out there for daily commute. It was perky, it revs and the 4 gears it had were strong and fuel consumption was immaculate too. Clocking in at 322,222km after 12 years, with a few hiccups here and there, and with the GST rebate happening around that time, the beloved Vios that I drove and modified for 5 years of my student life met its time. It was a bittersweet decision but as I already entered the working world and it required frequent travels, I needed something even more reliable (not that the Vios wasn’t, it was just old).
While surveying my new car, as a JDM enthusiast, naturally I looked for secondhand Altezzas, Caldina GT4s and Honda Civic FD2Rs. Unfortunately, I was advised against getting a secondhand one because those that were above 10 years old required cash only payment and the FD2Rs manual only option, albeit being amazing that you could bang on gears all day, but I'm mostly spending 60% of my driving in the jam. So then, with a budget in mind, I had to look in the new car market. The Honda Civic was a stretched although I would love one. I was quite obsessed with it since the Civic FC debuted. However, it was slightly above my budget so I settled with choices such as the Honda City Hybrid, Mazda 2 and the Toyota Vios.
About the Honda Civic
As we already have a GM6 Honda City and a Honda Insight at home, the salesperson did introduce the Honda Civic to me. Being a little over my budget, I had to put off the dream of owning one. However, after some speculation and with the 2018 period of the GST exemption, the base 1.8s model was discounted about 7K on top of Hari Raya rebates. Although it is no TC or TCP variant, which loses out on the LED headlights (TCP), dual-zone climate control (TCP), GPS navigation (TCP), chrome door handles (TCP), dual exhaust tips (both TC & TCP), 17-inch wheels (TC & TCP) and of course the halo 1.5 VTECH turbocharged engine (both TC & TCP), it still had an amazing chassis, great suspension and personally, I felt like the bigger engine even without forced induction feels smoother to drive on higher cruising speeds. It was a value buy as even being the base variant, it came with the same 7-inch touch screen with Android Auto and Apple Car Play, same spacious interior, same suspension setup and chassis, basically all you ever need in a daily driver that is also fun. The noticeable differences compared to the more expensive variants are that you get fabric seats instead of leather (which I prefer), halogen headlamps, body coloured door handles, single-zone climate control, 16-inch wheels, single tip exhaust and a 1.8 engine which spots a higher road tax payment than the 1.5t.
Power comes from a 1.8 inline 4 SOHC i-VTECH engine that was carried over from the FD 1.8. However, this time, it is paired to a CVT gearbox making about 141ps and 174NM of torque. On paper, it goes from 0-100kmh at about 10.4 seconds, nothing as fast as its forced induction brothers, but good enough to have fun and to daily. You get 16-inch alloys wrapped in 215/55R/16 Continental MC5 tyres instead of the 17s on the TC and TCP variants, but in this case, it feels more comfortable for absorbing potholes that we have so much here in Malaysia than the lower profile 215/50R/17 tyres on the TC and TCP variants.
As I have listed down the differences between the 1.8S and the 1.5T variants, I am not going to bore you more on the similarities (like design, interior spaces, boot space, safety features etc.) as the previous review of the Civic 1.5 TCP has already done an astounding job at that (go check that out).
The wait was long, as it was the period where everyone was looking for a value buy with the GST rebates. However, the day I will never forget, 17th July 2018, was the day I went to collect my new baby. She was sitting in Honda Sri Utama, shining like a dime, and I just couldn’t stop taking photos and looking at it. The salesperson was very nice, and the experience was great as it is my first time collecting my own new car, I was nervous in every cell of my body. She was patient in teaching me all the gimmicks in the car and showed me the way out. I drove it straight to work and the initial drive felt great.
Ownership and Driving Experience
After two years and 60,000km of hooning around in the Honda Civic 1.8s, whenever I throw it to a corner, it still puts a smile on my face. The ride is compliant and quiet, and the power is decent. The steering is fast and direct (some complained that it's too fast) but I like it that way. I never really liked CVTs but Honda’s effort in tuning it has to be applauded. Though there is still some noticeable whine when you punch the throttle, it is still acceptable and you just need to learn how to smoothen out the throttle to get the most out of this CVT gearbox. It “downshifts” under hard braking, especially going downhill, and it will always try to keep you in its powerband, the sweet spot is about 4300-4500 rpm where the maximum torque is and you will not feel like it is underpowered in any way going up Genting or your favourite mountain roads, provided the car is not fully loaded. In the case of the car being fully loaded, the S gear on the CVT will help keep the rpm higher and getting on it would feel easier. I would love paddle shifters for this purpose, but you will only get it in the turbocharged models.
On the less exciting note which makes up 60-70% of our daily commute, it has been a breeze as it is pretty smooth and comfortable to drive through rush hour traffic. It is also fuel-efficient as I could get an average of 14.5-15.1km/l on a day to day basis. One thing I noticed, however, is that the damping isn’t that great while going through bumps. While the suspension is on the stiffer side of things for better handling, it takes away a little bit of that comfort feeling while going through bumpy roads. Furthermore, if the car is fully loaded, it is easy to bottom out on sharp and high bumps. However, these complaints go away whenever you get an open and curvy road, those frowns will turn into smiles as the stability of the car is bewildering.
Maintenance is pretty affordable, averaging at about RM300-RM400 per time and at service intervals of 10,000km or 6 months, it is definitely manageable. The bigger services will cost upwards of RM700 but those will be done at 80,000km – 100,000km mark. Being a 1.8 NA engine, it is very easy to take care and this engine has been proven longevity by its predecessors.
As mentioned in the previous review of the Civic 1.5TCP, there are really no perfect cars. I faced the same steering rack issue 6 months in whereby the steering will have a locking sound and it does lock up a little while taking a fast corner above 70km/h, which results in very unsmooth cornering that could cause an accident. Another warranty that I have claimed was the dashboard sounds. There were noticeable creaking and knocking sounds coming from both the driver and the passenger side of the dashboard, which Honda rectified and helped fix in a day. There’s also a little bumper gap at the front fenders connecting to the fenders. I was a little put off by these issue as my 12-year-old Toyota Vios did not give issues like this even after so long, so I do hope Honda would rectify these issues as fast as possible. Another few problems that my passengers find is that the car sits too low, and having to putter around with my ageing grandparents and parents in it, they find it difficult to ingress and egress. Another issue that my girlfriend pointed out is that the passenger side is not height adjustable, and sitting at 5’1, she could only see the dashboard and not a lot of the front which makes it easier to get carsick going on long distance. At this point, I may seem like I am nit-picking, but these are just personal preferences and hopefully, all these statements could help readers choose what they want in a car. Personally, the height does not bother me but if it bothers my passengers, I would do something about it. So, aftermarket seat risers are on my modification list.
Talking about modifications, being a car enthusiast, I couldn’t help but fidget with the car, to make it more personal. At the point of getting the car, I felt like the 16-inch rims needed to go, wasn’t a fan of them. I was afraid of the warranty issue where if you change an aftermarket rim you will not be able to claim warranties for issues relative to the wheels (suspension/steering rack). So, I went for the 17-inch original TC/TCP wheels which I got for a really good price after trading in my 16-inch ones. Next were Ultra-Racing antiroll bars. I got a deal from a friend and installed a stage two kit on it which consisted of the front strut bar, rear lower bar, rear anti-roll bar, front member brace and also a middle lower bar. I felt like although it is already a great handling car, strengthening the chassis enhanced my driving experience a lot more as it just felt super planted in corners and hardly understeered or even oversteered anywhere which felt superbly balanced. Ride comfort is definitely compromised as it is even stiffer than it already is.
After 10,000km in, I thought the stock 215/50R/17 Continental MC5 that came with the rims I purchased was a little confidence depleting as with the bars, it already has the stability but the tyres were not keeping up. After doing some survey, I went with 215/45R/17 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 as it was proven and tested as one of the best street tyres out there. I went with the 215/45 sidewall profile as I wanted an even more direct steering feel but also because it was much cheaper than that of a 215/50 sidewall profile tyre. However, at my next tyre change, I might go back to a 215/50 tyre as ride comfort was compromised too much.
Some mild cosmetic changes were applied after doing all the performance stuff, which include de-badging the emblem at the rear, wrapping my wheels to gloss black, Wrapping the Honda logo to gloss black, dechromed the whole of my car with gloss black wrap, added in an aftermarket Civic RS spoiler and tinted my fog lamps (yellow) and side markers (orange).
Pros and Cons
Cabin packaging: 5/5
Ride Comfort: 3/5
Price & Cost: 4/5
Fuel Economy: 4/5
In a nutshell, I never regretted buying this car, yes there were hiccups here and there but they were all manageable and fixable for little to no cost at all. To answer a popular question that I got asked a lot which is why did I not get the turbo variant over this NA model, it is because I was not willing to stretch my budget and also as a NA variant from Honda, it is proven reliable, sufficiently enough power for our roads and also easier and slightly cheaper to maintain over the years. It is one of the most value for money base model C-segment car you can find on the road these days as compared to both Toyota Corolla Altis and the Mazda 3.
If you are looking for a fun daily driver that could seat 5 with a budget of RM130k or in the market for a C-segment sedan, do not skip pass this model. It may not sound as exciting as the turbo, but it is not lacking too much from its counterparts. Do test drive both to see which one you would prefer; and if the difference is not too much for you, you could even save some money while you are at it.